Over 150 people gathered on Eastern Avenue on Wednesday to protest the ongoing genocide of Palestinians by Israel. Organised by Students for Palestine, the rally met opposite the Chemistry building before marching to the Quad.
Students for Palestine convenor Jasmine Al-Rawi chaired the rally. She opened by acknowledging that it occurred on stolen Gadigal land. “Sovereignty was never ceded. It always was and always will be Aboriginal land. And this acknowledgment is not just a symbolic gesture in the Palestine movement, we’ve always stood against all forms of racism, all forms of oppression.
“I think the fight for Indigenous rights is very connected to the fight for a free Palestine.”
Al-Rawi highlighted the ongoing nature of Israeli occupation in Palestine, stating “this conflict has not existed for just the past couple of weeks. There has been a war in Palestine for 75 years. There has been 75 years of ethnic cleansing, of dispossession, of occupation against the Palestinians. What we are seeing is a genocide.”
Nick Riemer, President of the National Tertiary Education Union’s USyd Branch, spoke on the realities of Israeli apartheid, stating “the natural reaction is really, what can we do other than recoil in horror? The massive proportion of Gazan housing that has been destroyed. The almost 6,000 people that have been killed.”
“Doctors operating on people without anaesthetic, and often by the light of mobile phones. 2.3 million people are being starved of food and water.”
Riemer reiterated staff and students’ responsibility in speaking out against the atrocities committed by Israel, “You can’t make a difference in a historical situation if you don’t take a side. So what side do we take? We take the side of the oppressed.”
A Palestinian student and member of the UNSW branch of Students for Palestine shared their experience of the current conflict. They highlighted that the current conflict is not a religious war. “I want to express that this is not about religion, and send love and compassion to both the Jewish and Islamic communities, none of my words are targeted in any way at those practising Judaism. They are aimed at the actions of Israel, and specifically Netanyahu. The Jewish faith and Zionism have not, are not, and will never be the same.”
They continued by describing recent events as an “unprecedented” escalation of Israeli occupation.
“Being Palestinian, I’ve watched the wars before. The carpet bombings by Israeli F-16s on defenceless civilian populations. The thousands of innocent people dying with no one spared.
“We will not sit quietly when this morning Albanese announced he is sending Australian troops to the Middle East, not in our name. We must stand as a voice for the voiceless. We must stand together, outraged by the crimes against humanity in solidarity of peace and justice for all people. And that starts with ending the Western funded genocide of Gaza.”
A Palestinian solidarity activist, Josh Lee, agreed.
“It’s no exaggeration to say Israel could not do what it’s doing to the people of Gaza right now without the complete backing of Western imperialist governments. They literally would run out of missiles if they weren’t getting resupplied every day by the United States.”
A member of the Palestinian Action Group, Fahad Ali spoke to the current conditions in Gaza, saying that “We’re calling for a future in which we can live in peace and harmony without the fear of violence, without the fear of bombs, without the fear of children going without, children who will never grow up.”
“Why are some lives worth more than others? There must be a solution. And the solution needs to begin with calling for an end to the war, a ceasefire. The establishment of peace. That is the only way we are going to get out of this.”
Anti-Zionist Jewish activist Yasmine Johnson spoke to the reality of war for children, asking “What kind of world do we live in where Palestinian children write their names on their limbs so when they’re killed in Israeli airstrikes their families can find them?”
Johnson continued, contextualising the violence of the Israeli state, “My grandmother had her childhood and her family stolen from her when she was taken by the Nazis. And now Israel and its friends want to use this crime against humanity to justify another crime against humanity now.”
The protest then walked down Eastern Avenue, before heading to the University Quadrangle chanting “From the river, to the sea: Palestine will be free” and “Free, free Palestine”.
The USyd Students for Palestine are holding another rally on Eastern Avenue on 1 November, calling for the University to cut ties with Israel.